Upcycle Vintage Linens with Machine Embroidery – Free Project

I’m so excited to share a great small quilting project by  “Quilting Arts TV”  host, Susan Brubaker Knapp.

Susan is a multi-talented quilt artist and such a nice person, too. Moreover, I marvel at her ability to explain techniques in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner.

susan brubaker knapp and vivika hansen denegre
On the set of “QATV” Series 1400 with Susan Brubaker Knapp (left).

Susan is perhaps best known for her quilts with bold, photographic images made  to look three-dimensional with free-motion quilting and threadwork. Her tutorials on how to machine quilt are always best-sellers.

In this bonus project from “Quilting Arts TV” Series 1400, Susan offers a simple machine quilting project for upcycling old jacquard linens into a lovely table topper or runner.


Note: I dyed vintage linens from my stash for this project. As you can tell from the coloring, some of the threads absorbed the dye more readily than others due to their fiber content. The serendipity of the dyeing process added to the charm of the project.

1. Using a steam iron, block the napkins or place mats until each is squared up. Consider using starch so that they will hold their shape, as jacquard is rather stretchy.

2. If you are making a large project, sew the napkins or place mats together to the desired size.

3. Decide on the quilting motifs and, if necessary, mark the design with a chalk pencil.

machine quilting around vintage napkins motifs
Free-motion quilting helps the napkin motifs stand out. By Susan Brubaker Knapp.

Tip: I marked several of the straight lines in the center, and then used the edge of my foot to evenly space the remaining lines.

4. Layer the backing fabric wrong side up, interfacing, batting, and then the napkin or place mat right side up, and baste as desired.

5. Free-motion quilt around the motifs in the jacquard. In open areas, either stitch a free-motion quilt motif or use your walking foot to quilt straight lines.

6. Square up the whole piece and bind as desired.

Susan’s theme for Season 14 is “Find your inner artist,” and there is something new for everyone to discover in each episode of Quilting Arts TV” Series 1400.

I hope you’ll join us!

P.S. How do you upcycle vintage linens in your fiber art? Leave your ideas below–I could use them!

Other topics you may enjoy:


Machine Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog

10 thoughts on “Upcycle Vintage Linens with Machine Embroidery – Free Project

  1. About 20 years ago I was making angels from vintage jacquard napkins. I use tiny beads, larger glass beads and rayon ribbon to decorate the doll around the neck and the corner of the napkin for decoration. I also put the head and body together on the middle of the napkin so as not to cut through the napkin to save it in an uncut state, in case in future years someone wanted to upcycle the napkin for something else. I used moss for the hair with ribbons and tiny glass balls to make it sparkle. One recipient of my doll hung it in a bell glass to preserve it. I loved making them.

  2. I use my hand dyed vintage linens as the background for applique–both pillows and wall hangings. I posted photos on Pinterest. Sometimes I quilt the background following the napkin design but most often use seed stitch, ribbons and beading to embellish.

  3. I recently took a Guild class, Stack N Whack 4, using a vintage drape (Waverly floral print) that I bought at an Junktique shop 20 yrs ago, after making a number of blocks I took a panel of the uncut drape (to show what I had started with) and surrounded it on 3 sides with the blocks. I then trapuntoed the center of the blocks and some of the larger flowers in the panel and after that put another layer of batting and the backing on and stippled around everything making it all pop up especially the ones that I had trapuntoed . It looked really nice especially with the green sashing and the border of 2 1/2 strips of the orig. fabric as border and additional binding of the orig. fabric.